Bandung-Bred “Midnight Runners” Uses Green Lifestyle and A Passion for Vinyl to Revive Nusantara Disco

As a connoisseur for everything world music and disco, I like to scour all corners of the internet for musical gems. Approximately three months ago, I came across “Rave Fantasia” by Midnight Runners, a three-track EP of early-90s club-esque rave beats. Specifically, the track “Takan” took me away; its repetitive chorus (fully in Indonesian) quickly became engraved in my brain, and to this day I have not grown tired of the track.

Intrigued by the distinct sound, I looked more into the releases of Midnight Runners, and struck a world music gold mine. Through their releases, I found a plethora of unique disco and house tracks from China, Africa, and predominantly Southeast Asia. Unaware about Southeast Asia’s disco scene specifically, I was craving to know more about Midnight Runners, and what persuaded them to share these amazing relics with a broader audience.

I was able to get in contact with Munir, leader of “Midnight Runners,” and ask him some questions regarding the eclectic Asia Africa releases. Through this interview, KXLU explores the motivations of Midnight Runners, as well as the “Nusantara” Disco Scene that has been fairly obscure to Western Audiences until only recently.

1) According to your bandcamp, you consider yourselves “Bandung bred DJs, producers, record label owner, graphic designer & music enthusiasts.” With that said, would you call Midnight Runners a collective, and how many members are a part of it? 

MUNIR: I think Midnight Runners is a collaborator-group movement, because we don’t have fixed members, with myself being the leader. We love to exchange members to share experiences and share music knowledge. We have changed members 5 times so far, but currently it is only one member. 

Munir, leader of Midnight Runners

2) How did Midnight Runners get its start, and has it evolved since its beginning?

MUNIR: Let’s see, I have loved the sound of vinyl records for a long time, because my uncle always gave me records from his work as a sailor back in the 70s/80s. Because of this, I made it a goal to make records through Midnight Runners, and since then, I have accomplished that. Today, I try to evolve by using sustainability with music edits, which means I like the music but don’t like specific parts of it, so I edit and splice the songs and Djs get to play a new version of the original track.

3) Being from Bandung, does the city have a strong music culture, especially with the sounds you specialize in?

MUNIR: Yes, actually the creative industry in Bandung has been strong since 1997, after the Asian Financial Crisis. Bandung is one of the creative pioneers of the area, with many streetwear brands coming here and starting a creative boom. Many Art colleges are here too, helping the culture. Bandung is surrounded by mountains and hills, which makes perfect weather to chill and make music; it’s influenced me to produce original music, making it more weird and dreamy. Living here also cheap, like Bali but with less tourism.

4) Throughout your releases, you use the term “Nusantara Disco” pretty frequently. What exactly is Nusantara disco?

MUNIR: “Nusantara” is another word for the South East Asia region that was used a long time ago. The old name fits the feel for my disco edits, because the groove came from Nusantara/Southeast Asian countries and its people.

5) How does Nusantara Disco differentiate from the mainstream perception of disco music? 

MUNIR: In 1970s Indonesia, there were many disco parties at people’s houses or warehouses, using a live disco band (rarely with DJs). DJ parties came around in the early 80s. 

Nusantara Disco House Party, circa 1970s
Nusantara DJ Party, circa 1980s

MUNIR: A lot Indonesian disco songs are actually Indonesian covers of disco songs (originally in English). For example, with Wild Cherry “Play That Funky Music” and Marini Dan and the Steps “Mainkan Musikmu”. In my release “Nusantara Disco Vol.1” there are also many Indonesian disco covers.  

Indonesian cover of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”

6) What initially gave you the inspiration to re-release Asian and African disco/dance beats?

MUNIR: The idea came from the trends on sustainability life, recycle, and green culture. I thought to myself, why not do this with music also? I know it maybe is a stupid idea but there you go. I also took inspiration for the title of my “Asia/Africa Edits” from the 1955 Asia Africa Conference here in Bandung.

7) How do you choose which songs to release on specific compilations?

MUNIR: I chose to put specific songs on my releases where the original artists already passed away, people or djs are not aware of the artist, or simply if it is the same as my taste. I hope I can pay the original artists for the music I make for edits but it’s difficult to deal with and find the right person.

8) Where do you find most of your music?

MUNIR: I find the music on Discogs and share or exchange files with friends overseas. But I’m surprised that I could find African records here in Indonesia, though not many. Apparently, Indonesia received lots of its music from Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia back in 80s.

9) What is your favorite Midnight Runners release, and why?

MUNIR:Asia Africa Vol. 5″, “Mandarin Energy”, and “Rave Fantasia”. The songs for both releases are rare to find. For Mandarin Energy, I love the idea of this “energy music” in Hong Kong or Taiwan back in the 80s used in Kungfu action movies. Rave Fantasia because those songs are from 90s rave parties in Indonesia with high tempos, and I manage to edit it into properly-mastered tracks.

10) You’ve toured throughout Indonesia, and recently Japan! How was your tour experience in Japan, and are there any other countries you hope to tour soon? 

MUNIR: Yes, It was great. I went to Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Asahikawa and Sapporo which are great. Still want to go to Tokyo though, but I hope to this year. Maybe next year I’ll go to the US and European Union.

11) Do you have any final thoughts you would like to tell our KXLU listeners/supporters regarding Midnight Runners?

MUNIR: Thank you for all support buying digital releases and records. Also, good taste is always a great asset. 🙂

Midnight Runners Releases are able to stream/purchase on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and Youtube!

Interview conducted and edited by: Alexa Terry

Photos courtesy of Munir Harry Septiandry